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1920 - 2024

The club was founded in 1920 and named Shiplake Village Bowling Club, thanks to Mr.G.W.Porter the proprietor of the Plowden Arms, a coaching inn on the main Reading to Henley Road. He constructed two small 2 rink bowling greens in the back garden of the pub.  Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence of the membership, fixtures, or finance.

In the early 1930’s the club had sufficient local support to move to its present situation, on the ground owned by Shiplake Memorial Hall, where football, cricket and tennis were already established sports.  Coinciding with the move, the club adopted the new name of Shiplake Memorial Hall and Institute Bowling Club.  A 6-rink green was laid on ground that had formerly been a market garden.  There are reports in the minutes of working parties being organised to remove stones and break up clods of earth.  Funds were short so there was no spare money for anything but the most basic green maintenance equipment.  They played about 25 matches a year, always on a Saturday afternoon.

In 1940, following the outbreak of war, bowling ceased.  The treasurer had reported in the previous September that there were cash assets of £2.12s.10d and debt amounting to £8.10s. 0d.  How the deficit was cleared is not known!

On the 3rd of September 1947, eight years after the declaration of war, a few old members and prospective new ones got together to restart the club.  At this point the club was renamed again to the name we still have today “Shiplake Village Bowling Club”.  The green was in a very poor state, having been requisitioned by the government during the war to be a market garden (or was it an observation rangefinder?).  We were given a financial settlement from the ministry, as compensation, which went towards re-turfing, after clearing and levelling the green once more.

In 1952 bowling activity started again, with 32 members, and we became a mixed bowling club.  Only a few members had their own woods and shoes, so the majority had to hire their woods and covers for their shoes at 2d per game.  Matches were stopped for tea half way through the game.  This was usually taken at the pub, three quarters of a mile away.  It wasn’t until the year 2000 that matches were played straight through, with teas afterwards.

The 1960’s and 1970’s saw the club flourishing and playing more matches each year with an improved rate of success.  This was in spite of the fact that numbers remained in the middle thirties.  In 1964, 33 matches were played and by 1974 the number had gone up to 45.  Given the small number of members, there was never much money for improvements.  Eric Davis was the greenkeeper for many years, starting when he had a full time job. He managed with some help, but no mowing team or input from a contractor.

In 1961 the club became affiliated to the OBA and in 1976 to the OWBA.

Surprisingly, in 1984, despite the low membership, a decision was taken to build a new clubhouse.  For the previous 30 years members and visitors had had to make do with a very small building, not much bigger than the mower store, for changing facilities, and outside Elsan toilets.  If the club was to grow, the need for new premises was vital.

The new clubhouse was planned, constructed and furnished entirely by members.  They were supported by grants and loans and also held several fundraising events.  By the summer of 1987 it was completed.  Also, the green had been started in 1986 from the clubhouse. In the 80’s the members also started going on tours; a tradition which is still carried on to the present day.

In 1991 they started a Monday Points League.  1995 saw their 75th Anniversary, celebrated by two matches.  One was against OBA and the second, on June 5th, against EBA.  By this time their membership had increased to 85.

In 1996 there was an extension to the clubhouse, giving us new changing rooms and a machine room.  This was all thanks to a legacy from Frank Keene.  The following year, the bar was moved, thanks to Dave and Margaret Bullock.  Finally, the kitchen was refurbished.  It has been altered again in recent years to accommodate a bigger cooker and a new dishwasher.

In 2000 the 80th anniversary was celebrated with a match against the OWBA and several in-house events.

In 2001, we won the Plomer cup for the first time in its sixty eight year history.  In 2004, we joined the ODBL in Division 4 and by 2008 had been promoted to Division 1.  We have won the Plomer cup and the MUL several times in the last few years.

In 2010 we celebrated our 90th year, with a very successful Open Triples Gala.  It was sponsored by the Lord Phillimore trust and Lord Phillimore opened the event.  21 teams competed for cash prizes and Caversham Bowls Club were the winners.

The club has had a close connection with both the OBA and the OWBA.  We have had two men who became presidents of the OBA (Peter Cross and David Bullock) and three ladies who became president of the OWBA (Julia Perry, Mairwen West and Wendy Cross).  Several other members have been involved in committees and been selected to play for the county in matches.

2020 was our centenary and a programme of events, including matches against the Royal Household and Bowls England, Open Days, an ex-members tea and candlelit bowls, was organised by the committee.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March and the whole country was locked down.  As a result, none of the planned events took place, no matches were played and we all took refuge at home.  It was unfortunate timing, given the amount of time and effort put into planning, though we did all get new ‘centenary’ club shirts.

Thankfully, 2021 started more positively with a full programme of matches and activities, albeit with COVID restrictions in place until July.  In recent years, as has happened in many clubs, our numbers have dwindled but a relatively successful Open Day was held in May and 11 new members joined, making 56 in all.  We have an excellent green and clubhouse to welcome new bowlers and we look forward to a successful future.